Monday, 25 March 2019

Newark area, Saturday 23 March

Saturday was my fifth and first successful try at catching an adult Long-eared Owl (LEO). I went out at dusk – with visiting ringers Liz & Andy Scott – and set a large mesh net next to a stream & hedgerow, and once it was dark played their calls and that of a squeaking mouse. After an hour and a half (and we were about to pack up) we found this fine adult male LEO in the net. It was ringed, biometrics taken, and released in to the night.

LEOs are poorly understood as they are unobtrusive and not as easy to find as other owls. They move between the UK and other parts of north-western Europe. However, very few are ringed (<100 in the UK in 2017). Hopefully, this is just the first as we try to learn more about this stunning and secretive owl.


Monday, 4 March 2019

Sibthorpe, Sunday 24 February

The prospect of watching the mighty Hatters live on Sky at midday meant it made more sense to ring here in Sibthorpe. Issie, Vicki and I put up four nets in ours and a neighbour's garden. The morning was calm and foggy, and then sunny. Altogether pleasant ringing, and we handled 56 individual birds, before the kick-off intervened.

It was not just the weather that contrasted sharply with the session Pete and I had had the previous Thursday, but also the mix of species caught with lots more finches evident rather than House Sparrows. It was nice to ring a few Greenfinches for a change. See the wing and tail images below which clearly show the difference between first winter and adult male Greenfinches.

Species totals 42/14 (new/retrap), total 56: Woodpigeon 1/0, Blackbird 2/1, House Sparrow 12/4, Blue Tit 2/0, Great Tit 0/1, Dunnock 0/2, Robin 2/1, Chaffinch 2/0, Greenfinch 8/3, Goldfinch 11/2, Starling 2/0. Oldest retraps were a Great Tit and House Sparrow from early 2016.


 First year male (left) and adult male (right) Greenfinches.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Sibthorpe, Thursday 21 February

Jim and I spent a very enjoyable morning in the sunshine today with Skylarks singing overhead and the world feeling like it's ready to wake up again.

We put up four nets - two in Jim's garden and two in a neighbour's and caught 41 birds over the morning - which was more than we'd expected. The majority were House Sparrows and interestingly, the majority of those were retraps. I've always found that garden sparrows are quick to learn about nets and rarely get themselves caught again, but not today! Having several known-age birds allowed us to test some ageing criteria on the male birds (from Laurent Demongin's book). With a bit of practice, it seems as if at least some birds won't have to remain 2s or 4s now.

There were few finches around and Chaffinches in particular were notably absent - something that's been very obvious in the Vale of Belvoir lately as well. Is it the mild weather? Or are there far fewer around?

Of our 41 birds, 17 were new and 24 were retraps. This broke down as follows (new/retrap): Dunnock 1/1, House Sparrow 7/18, Robin 2/2, Great Tit 2/1, Blue Tit 1/1, Goldfinch 2/1, Wren 2/0.


 Goldfinch (Pete Leonard)

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Colwick Garden Ringing

We bought our house in Colwick in summer 2017, with the garden being one of the main reasons for our choice as it was mature, well looked after and had some good ringing potential. Feeding birds started right away and over the winter decent numbers of Chaffinch and Goldfinch as well as smaller numbers of other common garden species were soon eating us out of house and home. We also got some interesting species including numerous Blackcaps, several Brambling, Siskin and woodpeckers.

Fast forward to this summer when I obtained my endorsement to mist net in the garden. Since August I've been steadily catching small numbers of birds, as and when I get the chance. I've only managed an hour or two here and there due to other commitments, but it has been enough to catch a decent sample so far and hopefully as the winter goes on I'll start to catch a greater variety of birds.

So far it has been pretty Goldfinch-heavy, but this has included a control from Berkshire. The House Sparrows that haven't been seen since April are back for the winter and I finally caught one on my last session, and I've managed one Blackcap so far, but I haven't seen any others this winter yet.

The obligatory totals so far are as follows: 174 total (147 new/27 Retrap) - Goldfinch (90/6), Blue Tit (18/15), Long-tailed Tit (11/3), Great Tit (12/1), Coal Tit (5/2), 4 Chaffinch, 3 Dunnock, 2 Blackbird, 1 Robin, 1 Greenfinch, 1 Blackcap, 1 Goldcrest and 1 House Sparrow.


Control Goldfinch, Blackcap and net set up (T. Shields)

Monday, 31 December 2018

Brackenhurst, Sunday 30 December

The prolonged mild weather continued as Jim, Cliff, Tom & I met on a still, partially overcast morning. Birds were around, but fairly reluctant to come to bait or sound lures so we had a relaxing morning, brightened up with some festive refreshment.

Gangs of finches, buntings and thrushes teased us all morning and small flocks of tits and Goldcrests were in the hedgerows, but most steered clear of the nets. And with the exception of one round that produced a decent flock of Yellowhammers, we were catching birds in ones and twos.

We finished on 19 (12 new, 7 retrap) as follows: Blue Tit 1/1, Great Tit 4/3, Yellowhammer 7/1, Reed Bunting 0/2.

Other birds around included Kestrel and Sparrowhawk, Green Woodpecker, a single Woodcock flushed and 2 Golden Plover overhead. A number of birds were in song, presumably due to the mild weather.

Happy New Year to all!


Thursday, 27 December 2018

Brackenhurst, Friday 23 November

Already passed in to history, but Kev, Lewis and I had a decent morning’s ringing at Brack a month ago. Weather was good and we had unusually high numbers of birds in the nets for that time of year.

Highlights included:
- Probably our highest ever November total for Yellowhammer (30 processed). Hard to say why as some years we only handle >10 before Xmas.
- House Sparrow – often get a few prior to the turn of the year, but nine is a lot. We're guessing they come from the farm two fields away.
- Chaffinch – most of the males had wings >90 mm wing length. So most likely wintering migrants from Scandinavia?

Species totals (new/retrap) 66/19, total 85: Blackbird 3/0, Redwing 1/0, House Sparrow 9/0, Blue Tit 5/2, Great Tit 1/2, Long-tailed Tit 7/2, Dunnock 2/4, Robin 0/1, Chaffinch 15/1, Yellowhammer 23/7.

Oldest retraps were Blue Tit (2014), Great Tit (2015) and Yellowhammer (2016).


Toton, Christmas Eve

A perfect day for mist-netting was forecast for today so I was thinking about a trip to the golf club to try for some Redwing but unfortunately nobody was available. So I decided to try in the garden, most of you will know that I do very little ringing in the garden but recently Sparrowhawks have been using the birds on our feeders as their own local takeaway, so I thought perhaps if I caught them they might think again before returning!

The forecast turned out to be correct with not a breath of wind so before light I opened the net – tried unsuccessfully with an mp3 lure to bring Redwing in – and caught a few of the expected garden birds. Then a Blue Tit went in the net and just as I was thinking of going to get it out a blur from the left streaked in heading straight for the Blue Tit, veered off at the last minute and sat on top of the net pole. After cursing and stopping in my tracks the bird took off dropped round the back of the net and headed for the Blue Tit again, this time it went into the net and after swiftly getting out to the net I extracted this little lady:

Thanks to Christine for taking the pictures.

Oh, and the Blue Tit, a retrap from last winter, thankfully escaped the close attention of the Sparrowhawk unscathed.......and so did my fingers.

Happy Christmas to all.


SNRG on tour... Long-eared Owls in Scotland

And it gets better! Later on Ewan caught two Long-eared Owls in the garden and used UV light to help age them - different ages of feathers reflecting the light in different ways.


Monday, 24 December 2018

SNRG on tour... Short-eared Owl in Scotland

I've not managed to ring much during last few weeks, but I did get out onto the Ythan estuary grasslands three weeks ago when up in Scotland. We were targeting Long and Short-eared Owls and although several LEOs checked out the net, we didn't catch any. However, we did manage a single SEO. We were using large mesh net with both owl and mouse calls to attract the birds. Barn Owls are regarded as by-catch. Thanks to Ewan and Logan Johnson for the pictures.


Thursday, 20 December 2018

Sutton Bonington, Sunday 16 December

Alex, Duncan, Mick T, Gary and I held another session at the feeders on a still and sunny morning to start with but the cloud and breeze increased later. Fairly quiet but we did try again in the field with the two shelf nets and an mp3 playing and managed to get another Linnet and Meadow Pipit.

We ended with a catch of 33 including 15 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Redwing 4/0, Blackbird 1/0, Robin 2/2, Meadow Pipit 1/0, Coal Tit 0/2, Blue Tit 1/8, Great Tit 1/0, Linnet 1/0, Chaffinch 2/0, Greenfinch 2/1, House Sparrow 2/0, Yellowhammer 1/2. The oldest retraps were two Robins from 2016.


 Coal Tits (male left, female right), K. Hemsley

Friday, 14 December 2018

BTO nestboxes Lennonised...

Nice to see the latest BTO nestbox recommendations for Tawnys is based on Jim's expert craftsmanship!

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Sutton Bonington, Sunday 9 December

Alice, Maria, Mick T, Gary and I risked it with the forecast again today but luckily the early rain soon stopped and thankfully the breeze was not as strong as predicted either, on another mild December morning. Very quiet again with a first round catch of zero but it did pick up as the morning went on and Yellowhammers are now coming to the feeders. We tried a four shelf net against the bushes with a sound lure playing to try for a few more of the resident Linnet flock. A pity that just after we put it up it was lit up by the sun as the clouds cleared and we caught just one. 
We ended with a catch of 28 including 11 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Redwing 1/0, Song Thrush 1/0, Robin 1/1, Blue Tit 2/6, Great Tit 0/3, Linnet 1/0, Chaffinch 2/1, Goldfinch 2/0, Greenfinch 2/0, House Sparrow 1/0, Yellowhammer 4/0. The oldest retrap was a Robin from 2016.

Recent Recoveries

An Attenborough Egyptian Goose, ringed in 2009, has had its ring read in the field at the reserve in November.

An old record has come in of a Kingfisher, ringed at Holme Pierrepont in 2008. It was seen over at Colwick park the next year, having part of its ring read in the field.

Two Blue Tits have recently been controlled at Mick Pearson's site near Bestwood, both originally ringed nearby by Birklands RG at Bestwood Country Park. One had been ringed in the nest in May 2017 and another was ringed as a first year bird in July.

A ring, found unattached to a bird, was found in Dunkirk in November. It had originally belonged to a Great Tit, ringed in Gary's garden in June.

A Goldfinch ringed in Jim's garden in January 2016 has been controlled by ringers at Thorpe Marsh in Doncaster in December this year. Another Goldfinch was controlled by Tom in his garden in Colwick in October, originally ringed at a site in Dunton, Bucks in November 2017.

Finally, some old 1980s records of Mute Swans seem to be pouring in, relating to birds having their rings read at Clumber Park, the majority of which were ringed by South Notts RG at Clumber throughout the 80s.


Monday, 3 December 2018

Sutton Bonington, Sunday 2 December

Alex, Duncan, Gary and I along with Alice from Nottingham University managed to get a netting session in this morning even though it looked very iffy as I left home in pouring rain. It had almost stopped by the time I got on site and other than a few brief drizzle showers it stayed dry for the rest of the morning, although the wind was a bit too strong. It was unusually quiet at the feeders, the number of birds no doubt affected by the unusually warm temperature for a December day – at one point a Yellowhammer even started to sing!

We tried again with a couple of two shelf nets in the adjacent field and managed to bring quite a few Meadow Pipits to the nets and a growing flock of Linnets but the billowing nets were really too obvious an we caught just 1 of each species. We ended with a catch of 17 including 5 retraps, made up of (new/retrap): Great Spotted Woodpecker 1/0, Redwing 1/0, Blackbird 1/0, Dunnock 0/1, Meadow Pipit 1/0, Blue Tit 3/2, Great Tit 0/2, Linnet 1/0, Greenfinch 3/0, House Sparrow 1/0, Reed Bunting 1/0. The oldest retrap was a Great Tit from 2017. Nice to get the first Greenfinch of the winter and yet another Great Spotted Woodpecker but other than that it was a very quiet day at the office.


Saturday, 1 December 2018

The End of an Era?

As many of you will know, I have been running a Pied Flycatcher nest box study near Llananno in Wales for a number of years. It actually started in early 1993 when Gary, Mick T, a few other ex-members and I knocked together about 60 boxes and took them to Wales to find some suitable trees and receptive land owners. We doubled the number of boxes the following year and they have all been monitored each summer since (except 2001 because of foot & mouth disease). Each spring we also went on a maintenance visit to get the boxes ready for the coming season. Twenty-five years ago it was a challenge to put up all the boxes and carry sacks of boxes around on the maintenance visits. Since then it seems there has either been some tectonic plate activity that has pushed the hills steeper or as I head further into my 60s my mind is fitter than my body – I would like to think it is the former but I really know it is the latter! Also operating the site from about 130 miles away always held a few challenges, not least correctly timing the visit to ring the chicks, but it got increasingly difficult to get a team together for the ringing visits never mind the maintenance visits. Taking all into account I have decided to call it a day and have located a ringer who lives about 10 miles from the boxes to take over for the 2019 season and beyond.

I enjoyed running the project; I think I must have travelled well over 15,000 miles just going to the boxes but feel it was well worth it. The woods the boxes were in had virtually no trees with natural holes so to create this new active nesting area for a red-listed species gave a great deal of satisfaction. Unfortunately the efforts have not stopped the decline of the Pied Flycatcher as the graph of occupancy rates shows but I think we did our bit to help.

The graph show occupancy rates of the boxes in each year (except 2001). A box was considered ‘occupied’ by Pied Flycatchers if it had got to at least the egg stage, it does not mean the box successfully fledged chicks. We ringed over 5000 Pied Flycatchers but many went unringed if we got our visit timing out so I guess probably over 7000 birds fledged from the boxes during the time we were running the project.

Apart from the data submitted to the BTO, data was also used by the University of Wales and is now being used by Bob Harris who has been asked by the Welsh Ornithological Society to prepare a paper on the current status of the Pied Flycatcher in Wales.

I would like to thank all the people that have helped over the years in visiting and box making and I hope the new custodian will see the birds thrive.